Connecting Across the Rifts

K Madhavan Pillai

K Madhavan Pillai

What defines greatness? How is it measured? With the legends in photography, it in fractions of a second, slivers of light, the bent of a body, a hand over the edge, perhaps a few words left behind… impressions that endure long, long after the prints are taken down, pages turned over and the lenses packed away.

It is quite amazing how a photograph can connect the photographer and viewer across great rifts of time and space. And what a wonderfully transcendent connection this is! For a photographer to have chosen a subject, a certain way of seeing and the right moment to release the shutter, he brings with it his childhood memories, his joys, sorrows, influences, and a lifetime of experiences. For a viewer to feel deeply about a photograph, he does exactly the same. This sharing, just like a conversation with a friend over a large, lazy cup of hot coffee, on a rainy afternoon, is profoundly satisfying.

That’s the thing about friendships and photography. I have been desperately trying to find the right words for it after looking at all the wonderful images in this very special edition of Better Photography. So here it is… A friendship needs no pretence, explanations, excuses, or apologies… neither does the practice of photography. Unabashedly, and without artifice or regret, the photographers featured in this issue wore their hearts on their sleeves, and simply did what they needed to do.

I have never been to New York, but I discovered the truly delightful world of Saul Leiter in 2009. While his contemporaries in the 50s and 60s captured a gritty, miasmic city in the throes of change and survival, Saul found richly hued romance and poetry in the faces and scenes from his own neighbourhood. Despite his success with fashion assignments, life wasn’t particularly easy. He often found himself unable to pay home bills or process his film. That did not stop Saul from exposing hundreds of rolls of film, a lot of which were past expiry and cheaply available.

His presence in this issue, along with Helmut Newton, Erwin Blumenfeld, Art Kane, Jeanloup Sieff and Shantanu Sheorey, makes this edition quite unlike any other photography magazine published so far.

This article originally appeared in the July 2016 issue of Better Photography.

Tags: K Madhavan Pillai, Editor, better photography, Saul Leiter, shantanu sheorey, Edit note, July 2016, Helmut Newton, Erwin Blumenfeld, Art Kane, Jeanloup Sieff